“The Oak” (1992), directed by Lucian Pintilie, is one of the best films in the history of Romanian cinema
“The Oak” (1992), directed by Lucian Pintilie, one of the best films in the history of Romanian cinema, is also the first Romanian production converted to 4K, which allows for high-quality screening, by BRD – Groupe Société Générale and Fundația9. The new work was first screened at Lumière 2019 Grand Lyon Film Festival, a festival set up as a tribute to the Lumière brothers, and early this year, in February, it was also released in Romania.
The digitization was completed at the Hiventy laboratory in France, and the restoration took place in Romania, at the Avanpost Media studio, with the support and counselling of Florin Mihăilescu, director of photography and close friend of director Lucian Pintilie.
The restoration process took over 6 months, and was designed to improve the image and sound and to convert the film to 4K.
Premiered at the 1992 Cannes Festival and based on the novel of the same name written by Ion Băieșu, “The Oak” is Pintilie’s first film after his return from exile, and tells the story of a young teacher and a surgeon struggling with the last days of the communist regime. The cast includes Maia Morgenstern, Răzvan Vasilescu, Victor Rebengiuc, Marcel Iureș. “The Oak” was a springboard for Maia Morgenstern’s international career, as it won her the European Film Academy’s award for best actress.
The restoration of “The Oak” is part of a broader programme run by Fundația 9, the “Lucian Pintilie” Cinema Fund, created in the memory of the great Romanian film director at the initiative of Corina Șuteu, a member of the Foundation’s Board.
With this Fund, Fundația9 seeks to pay tribute to the great Romanian filmmaker and to support art films by young Romanian directors. We talked to Anca Drăgoi, executive director of Fundația 9, and Sebastian Plămădeală, one of the senior technicians at Avanpost studio, about the first restoration in Romanian cinema.
Anca Drăgoi: “The goal of the “Lucian Pintilie” Cinema Fund was to support a young generation of film directors. We are also aware of the importance of recovering Lucian Pintilie’s work, especially since this is not necessarily regular practice in Romania. What we want, in fact, is to create a best practice in this respect. This first restoration and digitization project should ideally create a positive trend in recovering Romania’s audio-visual heritage. We are aware that Romanian cinema needs a lot of support if it is to carry on, and I would be very happy to see that the restoration of “The Oak” is a first example that encourages not only public, but also private stakeholders. Our first discussions were with the French co-producer and also distributor of the film, MK2, which was extremely efficient. There were several competitive offers at the time, but we realised that it would be of high symbolic value to prove that top quality things can be done in Romania as well. So we compared the offers, some of them coming from prestigious European labs, and decided to do the restoration in Romania, at Avanpost studio. I believe this benefitted everyone, including ourselves, in that it strengthened our self-confidence.”
Sebastian Plămădeală, one of the senior technicians with Avanpost studio, told us about the restoration process:
Sebastian Plămădeală: “We were glad to be trusted by Fundația 9 with this challenging project. Fortunately, we started the restoration process with the film already digitized in this 4K format, the French co-producer MK2 scanned the negative film stock and also converted the sound from magnetic tape to digital format. This allowed us to focus on the actual restoration, instead of spending time to convert from the analogue to digital. The restoration involved 3 parallel levels: colouring, restoring the sound and restoring the image, which means eliminating debris or scratches mar from the original negative. A major challenge at each restoration of this kind is that you usually have to make decisions by yourself, without the film author. With “The Oak,” we were lucky to have the support of Mr. Florin Mihăilescu, who worked closely with director Lucian Pintilie and is familiar with his choices. So we stayed true to the original.”
The restoration process involved 3 sound professionals from Avanpost Studio (Florin Tăbăcaru for sound mixing and editing, Dragoș Știrbu for dialogue editing and sound editing assistant Victor Miu) and 5 photography professionals (Workflow Supervisor Sebastian Plămădeală, technicians Alex Stoica, Irina Tomașu, and Andreea Nedelcu, and Claudiu Doagă for colouring). They were all coordinated by Carmen Rizac, in a project that took over 6 months to complete. The international distributor is MK2, the French co-producer of the film. (tr. A.M. Popescu)